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|April 12, 2000||
Halo is about hope
School is nine months of penal servitude: a prison camp. Vacation is freedom: a climax of pure adrenalin and adventure. Capturing the uninhibited joy of a child's vacation can be a complex job. But Santosh Sivan does fine with Halo, the story of a little girl in search of her lost puppy.
Halo is about hope at two levels -- it is about a child's desire to recover her pet. And it is assurance that all is not lost for the cause of children's cinema in India.
Seven-year-old Sasha is played by Benaf Dadachanji. Sasha is a motherless child, unhappy with friends who are always discussing their mummies and comparing them to Miss India Ash Rai.
Salvation comes when Sasha's gluttonous servant reveals to her that God always grants whatever he is asked for. Sasha prays for a companion. And lo and behold, the next morning there is a puppy waiting for her, his head under the halo of an antique gramophone's cone.
The puppy is christened Halo. And much against the wishes of Sasha's father (Rajkumar Santoshi), he becomes her constant companion…
Until he is lost.
The rest of the story is about the adventures of Sasha as she sets out to find Halo. Like Alice in Wonderland, Sasha's quest is full of the strangest characters from a neurotic newspaper editor, through a gang of smugglers, to a scary commissioner of police.
Sasha's friends include a Donahue wannabe, always holding a microphone and being filmed all the time by another friend. He is constantly commenting on the state of affairs much to the irritation of Sasha. There is also her teenaged cousin who is in love with the idea of being in love.
Thankfully, Sasha is not very pleased with this role model. Then there is this girl who wants to be a politician and is advisor-in-chief to Sasha. It is this future politician that makes Sasha do the rounds of newspaper offices and the police station.
Yet, finally, it is a band of street urchins that lead Sasha to Halo. But does Halo return with Sasha? Is Sasha finally happy? I guess I should not spoil this superb tale by telling you all.
A couple of years ago rediff.com had spoken to director Santosh Sivan's filmmaker brother, Sangeeth. He had said that the brothers have promised their father to make at least one socially relevant film a year, apart from the regular potboilers that seem to rake in the money. Halo is certainly a step towards fulfilling that promise.
But the irony is that despite lessons from Hollywood, children's films in India seem to have no market at all.
Halo was made around two years ago. Then it went round the world winning quite a few international awards for best children's film.
But it is only now that Santosh Sivan is able to release it in India. And it can be suspected that he has managed to do this only because of the critical acclaim he won for Terrorist.
Rajkumar Santoshi as the preoccupied lawyer father of Sasha is okay. However, this fine director is obviously not as good an actor.
Halo is a short film, running only one-and-a-half hours. But those short minutes are packed with Sivan at his experimental best. The camera is unconventional and so is the edge-of-the-seat pace.
Looks like this summer is going to be special. For children… of all ages.
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